Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Law Does Not Stick

I attended the Youth Specialties conference in Nashville this past weekend - it was my first time to attend the conference, and there was a lot to take in.  Some good stuff, some not-so-good stuff.  I'll likely continue to post some thoughts from the conference in the weeks to come, but for now, I'll direct you to one of the more exciting discoveries I made.  

Fuller Youth Institute is doing some pretty cutting-edge sociological research that is of special interest to this blog.  Their research especially pertains to what helps kids' faith "stick" into college and beyond, and why our youth ministries are currently failing to give students "sticky faith".  Although the entirety of their research won't be released until 2011, their preliminary studies show that about 30-50% of students involved in their youth groups in high school struggle to maintain that faith beyond high school graduation - that is 2 out of every 5 students in your ministry you'd classify as "involved".  It's not those kids who you see once a year, but the ones who you have a deep relationship with - the ones who appear to "get it".  This is deeply discouraging. 

Kara Powell, Director of the Fuller Youth Institute, spoke at YS this weekend and pointed to some of the conclusions from the yet-to-be-released research.  What is the cause of non-sticky faith?  The law.  She claims that the vast majority of youth across the country are being fed "empty calories" - like caffeine, we feed them something that will produce quick, visible results and likely get them across the graduation "finish line" as good, moral, upstanding kids.  But then the caffeine high wears off, the behavior expectations change or they fail to live up to their own expectations, and they crash.
When we allow our students to believe - or, worse, teach them - that their faith is a sum of their behaviors, that obedience is a precursor to righteousness before the Lord, we feed them empty calories.  It won't be long before they realize that their behavior can't sustain them for the long-haul, and they give up.  But the gospel of grace, the Truth of the Scriptures, tells us something very different:  

"But the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood to be received by faith." -Romans 3:21-25

This is a faith which can absorb a student's pitfalls, as it absorbs our own.  This is a faith which can give a student an identity apart from their failed performance.  This is a faith which sticks.

No comments:

Post a Comment